How well do we in Fordham IT really understand the pillars of a Jesuit education? And how can Jesuit practices remain vital and continue, given the declining numbers of Jesuit priests?
These were the two big questions that Roxana Callejo Garcia, Associate VP of Strategic Planning and Innovation, pondered with others at the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities four-day Seminar on Higher Education Leadership in June, at Loyola University Chicago.
Roxana attended the conference to expand her connection to Fordham University’s approach to Jesuit learning. Having worked in the corporate field for many years, serving at a mission-based organization now makes her career more meaningful and personally relevant: “I can support the Jesuit mission because I believe in it,” she said.
Roxana was also looking for ways to integrate ideas on “what it means to be Jesuit” into Fordham IT’s employee orientation. She’d like to equip new employees with that knowledge so they can better understand what being involved in a Jesuit institution is really about.
At the conference, Roxana delved into one aspect of that, which is the “The Daily Examen,” a time of the day when you “sit back and say ‘Okay, in what places today did I find God present, and where was God not present?’” She explained that during this process, “you look at your day with gratitude; you reflect on your actions and attitudes with honesty and patience, like an examination of conscience. The final step is a heart-to-heart inner talk with yourself about what you did right and what you would like to do better.”
The Jesuits emphasize that to engage in this practice, one doesn’t need to be Jesuit or Catholic. “God” can be interpreted as any kind of higher wisdom that suits the individual.
Roxana explained that practicing The Daily Examen on a regular basis helps her act more deliberately and therefore she can positively affect herself, her staff, and the larger community. “If you have an attitude of gratitude, you look at life differently,” she said. “You tend to look more at the graces you have versus the things you don’t have.’”
Another valuable exercise she learned at the conference was communal discernment. This group process can be implemented in the classroom or in the workplace, where people freely share their honest opinions about a particular subject while refraining from judging anyone. Each person shares what he or she believes are the pros and cons of an issue, and no one else may talk while that person is speaking.
Essentially, “this practice relates to the Jesuit concept of listening,” says Roxana. “It’s listening without judging. It helps you to be open-minded. You say to yourself, ‘let me just hear what this person is saying without judging him or her.’” This process enables the listener to be more open to ideas and ask questions about them, even if the ideas seem dubious at first.
One of the key insights Roxana came away with from the conference is that the Jesuit philosophy “involves accepting all people with the understanding that as you learn more and more about different people, cultures, and areas of science —by being open to exploring the world—it’s likely that you will discover God and how you best relate to and understand God.”
The conference’s larger message was that each individual, while part of a specific community, such as Fordham IT or the University, is interconnected with the world at large. By being open to these ideas, we create better opportunities for academic learning, for reflecting on our behavior, and for engaging more thoughtfully with the world.